For vacationers and residents alike, the Gulf Islands each exude their own unique character. And by some mysterious magnetism, they seem to attract people who belong to the same clan. As one Salt Spring Island resident puts it with a laugh, "I didn't fit in other places, so I moved here."
The breadth and depth of business and community organizations throughout the islands prove that islanders are resourceful, committed and independent with a creative flair and a passion for the place they call home.
Salt Spring Island
Salt Spring Island is the most populated of the gulf islands and perhaps the most well-known. The island has more than 10,000 human residents and a large wildlife population including several thousand sheep and a sizeable number of deer. Children's entertainer Raffi and retired rock star Randy Bachman are just two of its "celebrity" residents. The people of Salt Spring value the creative nature of the many artists who call the island home; taking their popular Studio Tour is a great way to see how the Salt Spring way of life lends itself well to creativity and is a wonderful opportunity to engage with talented local artists.
Pender Island, originally inhabited by the Coast Salish and now home to peaceful Poets Cove Resort, flies under the radar which makes it perfect for anyone who'd prefer to keep a low profile. Best defined by understatement, Pender, which actually consists of two islands joined by a one-lane bridge, has the most park and ocean access of the Gulf Islands. Penderites are well known for their community theatre and island grown festivals including the vibrant New Year's Lantern Festival. The islanders have an excellent sense of community spirit and community groups are very popular, from quilt makers to folk dancers.
Think Mayne Island is peopled primarily with driftwood collectors? Well, perhaps, but don't think they're bumming around on the beach all day. People are industrious and the island has plenty going on to entice visitors. The "town centre" at Miners Bay has restaurants, a bakery and grocery stores tucked in heritage buildings. The island is also popular with outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy cycling the countryside past century-old farms and forested tracts of land and kayaking the pristine waters around the island.
If city living has beat you down, Galiano may be your refuge. Perhaps more than the other islands, people come to Galiano to escape and to heal. The Island even has an annual Nettlefest, nettle boasting restorative properties. The laid back lifestyle that people enjoy is enhanced by the incredible scenery; the gorgeous white shell beach at Montague Harbour or the spectacular views from Bodega Ridge are just a couple of examples. Aspiring broadcasters and film makers are drawn to the island as Galiano is home to the Gulf Islands Film and Television School.
Only accessible by two ferries or a float plane, Saturna is the island to head to truly escape. Half of the Island is protected by the Gulf Islands National Park and limited development has allowed for great wildlife viewing opportunities; wildlife lovers will be delighted that it is possible to see whales coasting through the waters around the island from the shore! Saturna remains an island of tranquility, devoid of some modern "necessities": no malls, just a few general stores; no bank, just ATMs; no cable and spotty cell coverage. People there are down to earth and very self-reliant with a strong community spirit. Be sure to visit for their famous Canada Day Lamb Barbeque to get involved with the locals!
Those who choose to live on the Gulf Islands may face issues. But accepting the challenges of living on an island means living authentically and the result is colourful characters with a reputation for distinctive individuality as unique as their home.